by Scott Mehl
Bagshot Park is the residence of The Earl and Countess of Wessex and their family. It is comprised of 21 hectares within Windsor Great Park, near the village of Bagshot, Surrey, and includes the Mansion House, a block of stables, and several lodges. The property is owned by the Crown Estate, and has been leased to The Earl of Wessex since March 1998. There are also two farms on the greater area of Bagshot Park, but these are not part of the property leased to the Earl, and are independently managed by the Crown Estate.
The area now known as Bagshot Park was a favorite hunting ground of the Stuart kings, and several hunting lodges have been located there. The original house – known as Bagshot Lodge, was built in the 1630s as part of a series of small lodges for King Charles I. For many years, the house was leased by the Crown. One notable tenant was George Keppel, 3rd Earl of Albermarle (a distant relative of The Duchess of Cornwall), who lived there in the 1760s and 1770s, and made significant renovations to the property.
In 1798, the Mansion House was altered again for the Duke of Clarence (later King William IV) who lived there until 1816. At that point, Bagshot Park became the home of The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester following their wedding. The Duchess was Princess Mary, daughter of King George III, and her husband (and first-cousin) was Prince William Frederick, son of Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, a brother of King George III. The Duchess retained Bagshot Park until her death in 1857. In the early 1860s, the property was given to Sir James Clark, Queen Victoria’s physician, upon his retirement. He lived there until his death in 1870.
A new house was built between 1875-1879, consisting over over 120 rooms, and the old house was demolished. Following his marriage, Bagshot Park became the home of Queen Victoria’s third son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and his wife, Princess Luise Margarete of Prussia. The Duke would remain at Bagshot Park until his death there in 1942.
After World War II, Bagshot was leased to the Ministry of Defense, and was used to house the Army Chaplains Department. They remained there until 1996, when the leasehold was returned to the Crown. Soon after, Prince Edward expressed an interest in the estate, and decided to lease the property from the Crown Estate.
Under the terms of the agreement, the property first needed extensive renovations which cost just under £3million. The Crown contributed £1.6 million (received from the Ministry of Defense when they released the property), and Edward contributed the remaining £1.4 million. During the renovations, the rent was set at £5,000 per year, and rose to £90,000 per year once the work was finished.
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